What is an effective altruist?

An effective altruist is someone who makes helping others a significant part of their lives and tries to make their help as effective as possible.

Effective altruists believe that helping people is a good thing. They believe that it matters a lot to make people’s lives better. It matters even when those people are far away and are people you’ve never met.

That desire to make people’s lives better isn’t a political idea. We have members who are hard- core libertarians, far-left socialists and everything in between. Some of us are religious, agnostic, or atheist. In short, there are a lot of different reasons for wanting to do good.

The other thing that unites effective altruists is that they want to make as much of a difference as they can. They think it’s worth thinking your options through carefully, to make an estimate about which actions will make the world the best place. So when they choose between two jobs, they think about the difference each job would make compared with what would happen if they didn’t take it. When they give to a charity, they take estimates of how much good the charity will do with that money very seriously.

An effective altruist recognises that estimates only get you so far. But they are continually surprised by how far they go – our research shows that even on a rough estimate some careers do tens of thousands of times more good than others.

For more, please see this TED talk which gives an overview of effective altruism.